Episodes of Epistaxis

Recently, Life has, repeatedly, given me a bloody nose. And I don‘t like or understand it.

I never previously suffered with nosebleeds (okay, possibly once when I smacked my face into something, but not frequently and not mysteriously, as has been the situation this past month). Now, not to panic — such bleeding has only occurred four (or five) times, and it always clots away pretty fast, in an hour or less, nostril squinched closed between fingers clutching blood-absorbing kleenex (okay, Big Corporate — “facial tissues”). I havenʼt even been deprived of much of my precious sanguinous fluid, but this bodily misbehavior is new and puzzling.

Sure, it has been very cold (last night may again have set a record subzero low) and therefore dry both indoors and out, but I never spontaneously spouted red before… I would like to know what‘s up.

And that (rather moderately strongly motivated) curiosity prompts me to (after yet another two-month gap) to post anew here on Wakdjunkaga‘s Blog.

I have for years been taking a prophylactic blood-pressure-reducing (and arthritic base-of-thumbs pain-alleviating) nightly aspirin (or two) which I have ceased for several weeks, thanks to this novelty of spontaneous bloody eruptions from my left nostril. Did (optimistically) thinning my blood cause this (possibly age-related) unpleasant phenomenon?

And, abashed, I acknowledge that I do possess witlessly a lifelong unwholesome habit of digitally disentangling dried olfactory viscidity, and an errant fingernail may have in a thoughtless moment abraded a surface vein or capillary. (Yeah, sometimes my affection for periphrasitic pleonasm may have its euphemistic benefits.) And such boorish personal expurgations (but always restricted to private moments) may have unconsciously occurred since the epistaxis began…

However, I have diligently attempted to cease both possibly conducive activities — medicinal and chamferous. So far to no avail.

WikiHow "How to Stop a Nosebleed" — There are an amazing number of manga images of nosebleeds when one googles the term Try it yourself.

WikiHow “How to Stop a Nosebleed” — An amazing number of manga images of nosebleeds result when one googles the term!

The first incident was February 2, as I was bent over trying to tie my shoes before we left town for the day (which we did but an hour or so later than we might have done without exsanguination). I had the idea perhaps the stress of doubling my fat belly to reach my ankles might be causative (and I still wonder, as you will see). A small second eruption seeped spontaneously while we were looking for birthday cards at Target a few hours later; I plugged myself and sat on a bench by the doors, feeling inadequate until she had bought her selections, by which time, maybe ten or fifteen minutes later, it had ceased.

The second was the most startling so far (okay, maybe third). February 8, in the evening, as I was just begun on my shower, suddenly there was red all over. It took me a minute both to see and to realize. And it was really gushing, too. Just great. Janet scurried to my aid, and I had to stay both naked and incompletely dry for too many minutes before clambering one-handed into nightclothes and sitting myself quietly in my TV-viewing recliner for a good forty minutes (or more). She had to clean up my phlebotomistic mess, unfortunately. I eventually went to bed dreading that I might suffer another bout onto my pillow — although I did not.

Assuming I didn‘t skip any events, the third/fourth experience delayed until the 26th. During the gap I did halt the aspirin intake, mostly, but had returned to a baby tablet at night while we had been away for her birthday celebration at her sister‘s house. So I had consumed minute aspirins five nights (maybe fewer, as I don’t recall if I took one every evening). This time I had just finished dressing myself to head east for the nightly workout when I realized I had swiped blood onto the back of my hand. Eff! This bout extended over an hour, with several resurgences, each always on a reduced scale after I believed it had stanched. No workout that night…

And the fourth, most recent was yesterday morning (thus two within a week lately). I had arisen, not particularly early, ready to shovel snow, as we had received a new four inches or so overnight (actually all Saturday afternoon and into the night, and I had scraped away what might have been two inches midafternoon, after a previous inch Friday night). This time, I had gotten outside and pushed two big passes of snow away, realizing I really should get out the snowblower, when, on my way back across the driveway to the garage door, I saw red spots form on the snow. Effing eff of eff! Yesterday, I pinched my nose for maybe twenty minutes and three absorbent paper squares until She-Who-Must was ready herself to do the snowblowing, when I just jammed a new kleenex (“nasal tissue,” whatever) into my nostril, most of it hanging down over my lips, and quickly hatted and gloved to go out and help/show her how to get started. I kept at it (scraping at snow and machine tracks), with one replacement of the instantly frozen kleenex until the job was done a half hour later, and my epistaxic episode had concluded. (I liked not feeling like an invalid, worthless, while the incident proceeded.)

And that is where this new unpleasantness in the corporal husk stands as of now. Puzzling and distressing. Is exertion to blame? Am I headed for apoplexy? Will a perhaps lacerated blood vessel heal and end my predicament? No more aspirin, ever? Should I investigate nosebleeds as a consequence of lisinopril and/or simvastatin intake? Suggestions?

Advice or insight on this annoying development would be appreciated.

(Sorry about the gruesome topic, but I did previously write on ocular migraine symptoms and lipoma surgery. This issue — hideous pun — seemed to be right in line with those topics — quite popular, at least by hit counts. And I really would appreciate some advice.)

(composed with Bluetooth keyboard in MacJournal for iPad, transferred by wifi to the computer for editing and uploading for further editing to WordPress)

©2014 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

For the Fam

Having just recently sent letters off to my aunt and my distant, Minnesota-immured brother, I realized that those two, however intermittent my correspondence may be, are far more up to date on the lives of The Lovely One and me than any of my siblings or the rest of my kith and kin (the undoubtedly most frequent visitors to the blog). so for their benefit, I thought I might post a brief review of recent months for us here in Our Town…

First, I evidently do have a job ahead this summer, the Republicansʼ wicked refuge of sequestration (permitting them as ever to continue doing what they do worst — nothing) notwithstanding. Things will change this summer, and my employment will only be part-time (it was already merely seasonal). The very fact that a year ago I was already at work (within a day or four) evinces the difference. I feel excited — not the least because My Beloved is already growing intoxicated at vacation possibilities (that I need a job to fund).

A hint on the destination?

Zgubiłem się. Czy pan mówi po angielsku?

(But more on that in future. Right now, thereʼs nothing booked and just a Lonely Planet Encounter travel book in hand.)

Last week, exactly to the day as I write (but may not have sufficient afternoon ahead to post), our mailbox got “vandalized” — accidentally damaged, we think, in reality, based on the evidence we could observe:

  1. tire tracks veering into the gutter and apparently onto the curb,
  2. the door on the box getting bent and the latch twisted in the direction of the bending,
  3. the iron pole on which the box was mounted bent nearly forty degrees,
  4. no damage to the neighborʼs box right beside ours and first in line for damage.
Ours was rusty ad had long ago lost its little red flag

Ours was rusty ad had long ago lost its little red flag

We (neighbor Levi and I) concluded that a semi or big truck must have caught the latch and the door with the trailer or box of the vehicle, wrenching the whole mailbox askew (and almost apart) before releasing its unintended hold as the large vehicle made its turn to the nursing home across the street. We bet the driver didn’t even know what he had done, sheltered high up in his cab on the far side of his truck.

Anyway, we have now spent sixty-some bucks on a new, modern box, and I still have to buy a 4×4 post on which to place the new thing (not to mention, with Leviʼs assistance, dig out the old pole — on its concrete base, if itʼs at all like their old box was — install the new wooden post and get the mailbox upright upon its stand).

In other damage news, I broke my glasses about six weeks back, removing my balaclava as I arrived a the hospital to work out, the woolen facemask pulling my glasses away from my head to crash and break on the concrete floor. I got new frames (the style, however, being now defunct, I was “lucky” to get a stockpiled pair from across the Atlantic) and spent over a hundred dollars.

And in other optical news… Just over a week ago, Janet had a day off from work for her annual eye exam (now to change to semi-annual — Iʼll explain) which she has endured/enjoyed ever since her detached-retina surgery back in 2008 or ʼ09. This yearʼs was supposed to be in May (the ophthalmologist was trying to let her avoid snowy/icy roads that hadnʼt yet interfered for her formerly February appointment), but we got a call earlier in the moth letting her know that the doctor would be unavailable at the scheduled time in May, so she reset for March 27.

This was her first afternoon appointment so far (the next will be back to morning, we already know), and everything ran smoothly — particularly so since we got to sleep in relatively late (at least for us). However, there was big news: as had been predicted right after her surgery, she is beginning to develop a post-surgical cataract and will eventually need to have the lens in her eye replaced. This is not altogether bad news (or even bad news at all, she insists). The surgery so changed the shape of her eyeball that she is hugely nearsighted in that eye now (way, way worse than she was normally/previously), and that problem, which leaves her with great difficulty reading, could be resolved with a surgically implanted corrective lens replacement. However, her insurance pretends that simply replacing her lens is “elective cosmetic surgery” and will not pay for it (as though being able to see is in any way “cosmetic” whatsoever), but they do pay for cataract surgery. She has been kind of waiting for her predicted post-surgical cataract to develop so she can get her lens replaced and help her vision. We are to return in September (a six-month gap, scheduled to avoid overlapping my then-potential work schedule, to which I guess we now must get accustomed as the ophthalmologist keeps tabs on her developing situation).

Hmmm… what else?

We took a few days away from home to visit Schaumburg (that means Ikea) and St. Charles (to again find a favorite restaurant had closed — this one shuttered with a police notice on the door, scarily) for The Lovely Oneʼs birthday. Stephen and Aunt Alaire got the tedious details on both (and I could upload the same for a future post, too — there was some amusement involved periodically, along with the shopping and dining).

And more or less (neglecting that both of us are currently and mysteriously suffering back pain, mine inventively resembling what I imagine passing a kidney stone might be like — thus limiting our exercise regimens a little just now) thatʼs our news.

Posts of more general interest to come?

©2013 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

500 Words

An interesting year closes tomorrow night. 

A year ago I was completely involved in my quest to post something daily here on the blog. I did so, and not so surprisingly (at least to me) I havenʼt even posted 150 times this year (considerably less than half the possible days). Things change?

A year ago I had no connection to the USDA nor any awareness of the emerald ash borer. Boy, did that situation change. And I am looking forward to renewing that relationship (both with the bug-hunt and the governmental agency), Congressional asininity permitting.

Last year I was trying to dictate as many words to the computer as I could. Just now I am excited about uploading handwriting into editable text.

A year ago, we had nearly (or more than) a foot of snow on the ground. This year everything is gray and brown — bare and possibly more depressing than a white winter (of course, before the last three years, we went through a phase of winters that often had no snow until January, or very close thereto).

A year ago, thanks to a Christmas gift, I was listening nearly nonstop to the Allman Brothers (again, after an almost forty-year gap). I donʼt think Eat a Peach or Live at the Fillmore has played since April. Lately, not having been able to afford the complete (huge) Europe ʼ72 live Grateful Dead box, I have been listening a lot to the two of those concerts I did purchase. And some new/old Rolling Stones — The Brussels Affair, pretty good music. And (potential blog topic here) Joe Grushecky. Yes, Mozart, Miles Davis and Bob Marley, too. Clapton (in various guises). Bach. A 2011 Christmas gift means Jefferson Airplane, as well.

A year ago I imagined I would have completed my NaNoWriMo 2010 novel, and I just realized I havenʼt added a word in the last twelve months (and my performance for November this year was so crapulous I know I will be discarding just about all those words). Sad.

A year ago I was hopeful that the relatively new phone-line filter Qwest technicians had installed would make my internet experience smooth. As I recently reported — no such luck. (Thanks for nothing, CenturyLink. And by the way, my bill still says I am paying for “high-speed internet with MSN.”  Didnʼt MSN die?*)

I felt pretty self-satisfied, a year ago, and optimistic about myself and my writing. Then I wasted what time I could have given to writing until I was working ten hours a day, on the road. And then I made only feeble efforts to get the gusto back. 

I had no big new yearʼs resolutions in mind a year ago. But I feel as though I had better make some seriously significant changes now (at least I have been getting my large and lazy arse out of bed for some time hitting the streets these past mornings — but weʼll just have to see if that reluctant effort persists).

A year ago things to me looked pleasingly bright. Right now, the view seems pretty bleak.

So why am I smiling?

* MSN did die. I got an e-mail announcement of the demise/change. The software no longer works on Janetʼs Windoze laptop; she has to get her e-mail using Hotmail (on Firefox). The web siteʼs free. To anyone, whether they pay money unnecessarily to CenturyLink or not — disbelievers should just click the link above. (I really do have a long phone call to endure, complaining, soon.)

Okay. With the footnotes, this is definitely more than just 500 words.

And the much-delayed explanation behind this recent flurry of posts is coming tomorrow (really; it would have been today, as previously promised, but I couldnʼt count).

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Labor Pains

Work is sort of settling into a rhythm. I am not entirely sure itʼs a rhythm I am going to enjoy. But my partner and I are making considerable progress, averaging more than twenty traps a day (including two-mile by two-mile squares where we couldnʼt locate a usable ash tree), which she seems to believe is very fine work. On the other hand, the work has me feeling not so fine, physically and intellectually (inflicting some pain and some stress).

All work is stressful. When folks have asked me about retirement, I have almost invariably responded, “Any day spent not working beats every day of work.” And itʼs true. Just knowing I have to get up and get going to the job induces a mental burden that we all accept for granted while working. My retirement interruptus has just made me aware of blissful life without that psychological pressure. Furthermore, the job is just lots of effort. And time.

I had, in anticipation, after my interview back in late February, thought that the (federal-budget-induced) ten-hour days, providing a whole Friday each week just for me and not for work, would be a good thing. I hadnʼt beforehand, however, thought about how physically demanding (at least on an old guy) ten hours in the field would be. (However, currently I would be happy if each day were only ten hours long. So far that hasnʼt yet happened. And the work is wearing me out.)

On Tuesday, I got in my whole ten hours and nearly two more and then did the little daily chores around the house — fixing breakfast (cutting up a grapefruit, not so hard) and making lunch (a couple of salads — most of the work is ripping up lettuce leaves and remembering The Lovely One likes hers with, in order, nuts, berries cheese and then chicken). Finishing, I felt like maybe I too would relax now and watch the final few minutes of the ninety-minute, Gaga-esque episode of Glee that Janet was enjoying (her job has made her endure even more — and progressive — stress than I have been discovering), when I remembered, after an ungentle nudge from my beloved (I told you she was feeling some stress lately) that I had promised to buy necessary groceries after work on Monday, which hadnʼt happened when my ten hours extended toward twelve that evening also. So I wearily redressed in out-of-house attire and headed away to Fareway. (I did feel good to accomplish the promised task.)

Worse, the physical effort is telling on my antique physique (such as it is). My elbows and knuckles have constant hurts (the elbows escalating at times and in certain positions to actual pain, the hands and digits acting up so my typing, as right now, is fifty percent more inaccurate than usual) that keep me from dropping off to sleep and have increased my aspirin/ibuprofen intake (particularly for bedtime). I am, after all, a physical worker in this job, as I was only periodically and briefly as a teacher. (Bah. I just misspelled more than half the words in the previous sentence, including the word “sentence, ” twice, in this parenthetical remark. Symptomatic.)

So I hurt and I feel the stress of having to go to work. Poor, poor pitiful me (or some semblance of those letters nearly randomly scattered or missed — thanks for spell-checking, small miracle these days). I donʼt mean to whine, but itʼs all true, too.

I am weeks/months (meaning issues and issues) behind on my magazine-reading. The stack by my favorite chair in the living room is disgusting (and wonʼt get reduced this weekend). And it keeps growing every time I fetch in the mail. Sigh. I try to read something for pleasure every evening, just as I did in teaching days — my only and minor escape. Again.

And worst of all, my partner likes AM talk radio. I have had to endure the venal and false Tush Rimblow (decipher that one, if necessary) daily. For two solid, self-serving, rant-filled, deceptive and distorted whining, braying hours each afternoon. That mental and spiritual torture may be the heaviest straw of all.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Just Like Starting Over

I turned in my hourly work record for the final six days of of my month-long substitute teaching tenure in what had once been my old job about 4:00 yesterday afternoon. Give it a few more days, and I will know just how much cash that extensive period of work will have earned me. (I hadn’t known until part way into the stint that a sub’s pay increases after a certain period of time. Really bright, aren’t I? Most workers investigate that kind of thing, monetary rewards and benefits and all, before starting a job.) I am looking forward to perhaps a thousand new dollars in my account overall.

The canines have all been safe hereabouts throughout March…

What I know already is what the job has cost me. I don’t mean to sound melodramatic (really just creating a monetary metaphor for contrast), but time lost can never be regained, and I don’t think I made the best use of what time the job left me during March. First, I spent time early on dreading the responsibility of returning (even temporarily) to that old (more than) fulltime job. I tried to rest up for those far-too-extended days (such as I mentioned in yesterday’s post), and that urge to have slept well before a huge day at school kept me in bed each morning when I could (and should) have been out for a run.

Yes. I haven’t really gotten any exercise since this month got going (as I never did). In particular, until this morning I haven’t done a daily run (with the normal excuses/revisions as actually just a slovenly and slothful slog — even slacker than a jog). And until a few hours after this post appears, I won’t know if I managed to drag my sorry behind from the warm bed today. (After all, I believed each evening as I retired that I was going to get up and get going the next predawn. And all month I never did.) After that immense and lazy gap, the first time out is going to feel exactly like the title of today’s post.

I just hope it is/was/will be this morning that felt just like starting over. The longer I put it off, the worse that new beginning is going to be.

One of these days (or months) I must sign up for the workout facility at the local hospital, too. I quit my membership in the local Y (the membership that I notoriously never used more than a handful of times), intending to shift my loyalties and improve my performance with the county health center this month. What with long days at school, that hasn’t happened. Yet.

And all too soon, I’ll be starting over in another way with a brand new summer job, as well. (At least that employment provides the personal benefit of working outdoors — even on rainy days — and providing the opportunity of plentiful exercise. Using my upper body for anything is going to feel altogether new all over again, too.)

Time to get started…

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Benefits of Being Back at Work (Temporarily)

I had wanted to get a suitably Gaelic green post up for Thursday, but events and work prevented. (Instead this one appears quite late the next day.) My ongoing spate of substitute teaching sadly continues,* meaning that I now have assignments to evaluate and grades to record (in addition to merely being present in a classroom from 8:00 AM until 3:15 PM — a sub’s normal routine). That effort adds some time at the beginnings and ends of my days, but not academic activity alone.

Intriguing how things change and yet remain unaltered. The old classroom at Andrew Community School — so different and yet… (with one of the sophomore boys, Friday, March 18).

Although the speech practices ended with the glorious state contest results I mentioned already,** play rehearsals continue (and finding times that the entire cast is available has become apparently impossible). I even succumbed to student persistence and scheduled a morning practice (which we used to require every week for the fall productions and which I dreaded, perhaps nonsensically as I otherwise might arise at the nearly same time to run, but the prospect of which dismayed me nonetheless). We, ah, “enjoyed” that practice this morning.

I arose at my usual get-up-and-go-running time (roughly 4:40 AM), but no run today (nor has there been for two weeks now, my daily exhaustion from the once-again regular work schedule has been telling on my vivacity and dedication to exercise). Instead I quickly showered and dressed, gobbled down my half a grapefruit, skipping even the coffee which I had neglected to start brewing earlier than usual. Even with the quarter-hour drive to school,*** I arrived in time to welcome even the early arising among the cast and start the runthrough of Act Two promptly at 6:20 (although it turned out that we could have started twenty minutes later than we did, as that act runs more quickly than I had realized). So even leaving school at a pretty reasonable and early time in the afternoon, I still put in an almost ten-hour day.

One benefit, I suppose, from sort of teaching again, for what may become three weeks solidly, is an income. I discovered last week that when a sub at Andrew goes ten days in a row, the pay scale increases from the standard $85 a day to 1/180th of the contractual base salary, nearly doubling one’s earnings. I kicked over ten days Thursday, and today was payday, so we add a touch of green to my life after St. Patrick’s Day.

I celebrated that good news (a tad in advance, yesterday — my sole celebratory act for the Celtic holiday) by purchasing myself a little iPod Nano (the eight-gig model was the only one available at our local Walmart, where I had for Christmas bought The Lovely One a Shuffle). Yes, I had realized that my old Classic had died**** and it was time to find a replacement, even one that could only hold a measly 4000 “songs.” But one that with flash memory instead of a fragile hard drive could withstand the rigors of my running (okay, barely jogging) regimen (although the old Classic did endure three good years before it failed). And the new device wasn’t hideously expensive (yeah, okay, it’s an Apple product, true, so it cost noticeably more than it might).

I didn’t get it set up and formatted, nor any music loaded as a playlist, yesterday (and I will explain why not tomorrow) because I knew that the tiny new player would have no function even if I did get that preliminary job done: I had play practice to direct rather than a moonlit morning run. But once I do, I hope tomorrow, perhaps the utility of the new device will lure me from bed with renewed regularity to resume my currently interrupted fat-man-jogging tours of the town.

The mental stress of being called to substitute at my former endeavors in education may have combined with the untimely but coincident demise of the old iPod to break my resolve at running. But one benefit of working (let’s hope it’s not the only one) is the financial reward, however skimpy, and that may have permitted me to acquire what I hope I need to get back on track.

* (not so unhappily for me, actually readjusting to fulltime work, at least somewhat, periodically, but with melancholy for the teacher in whose shoes I have temped with such unerring mediocrity)

** …and the ex-speech coach in me wishes I could claim some of that credit… But that would be a lie. The success all belongs to the wonderful teacher I have but briefly usurped. (At least they didn’t quite break all the records kids and teams I had coached had set!)

*** During which drive I got to enjoy the waxing gibbous, nearly full mega-moon in all its immense glory (resembling, strangely, the logo for my second full-length play, Magick).

**** (or perhaps not… That’s tomorrow’s tale.)

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Blizzardʼs End

The birds had consumed nearly the whole tube of seed in just over twenty-four hours.* Can you tell I am knee-deep in snow and still at least a foot off the ground? The feeder nearly touches the drifted snow!

Tuesday afternoon, February 1, the storm blew in like wind-driven fog, the flakes were falling that thick and fast. Janet got home from work about an hour early (although a little later than I would have preferred myself). However, she made it with only a few white-out moments. We hunkered down for Tuesday evening as the storm howled loudly and whipped incredible amounts of snow into our windows. We went to bed, lulled into unconsciousness by wind wailing and screaming outdoors.

Assuming she might call in, unable to make it to work on Wednesday morning, I had delayed my Wednesday morning alarm for an hour or two. The blizzard, after all, dumped fifteen inches of new snow on us that night. Janet got up a little later than normal to check the road conditions via phone and then leave her message at work. “Travel was not advised.” She returned to coziness, and we didnʼt arise until just after 8:00.

The city snowplow had come through perhaps an hour earlier, evidently moving fast as it had scattered snow and chunks fully halfway up our drive. I also discovered we had a vast, deep drift from our little porch all the way across the door of the garage (in fact, the drift actually covered the whole front of the house, but I was only interested in the part of it I would have to clear). I determined to start my day by shoveling us out. So I dressed myself in many layers, capped with my new white windbreaker, that Janet had given me for Christmas, on top and my thin snowmobile pants over my running tights below. I had found recently that both garments insulated me almost perfectly from wind and cold. I pulled my rubber boots on over my shoes before facing the blizzardʼs deposits.

The remains of the big snow dune… See what I am talking about? It was truly disheartening.

Just opening the garage door disheartened me. The drift was fully chest high (about four feet, swaying up about a half foot partway along) and nearly eight feet across.** But I valiantly got out my shovel and began trying to dig an opening in front of the entry door. I didnʼt do very well, merely hollowing out a tiny space that immediately filled with snow. I did attempt to shovel out a narrow lane across the front of the big garage door, but I couldnʼt keep any of this cleared space from gathering collapsed snow, so I determined to try the snowblower. When I opened the big garage door before starting it up, I found myself facing a wall of white. “Disheartened” may have been too jovial, too upbeat a word…

However, I did start the machine and push it out into the wall of snow, which immediately collapsed all around me and it. But I turned the blower sideways and, having closed the door, cleared that little alley between the garage and the drift, an alley that kept filling with snow that fell off the drift without apparently diminishing the drift itself whatsoever. I pushed the sucker through that snow again and again, without apparent success, merely maintaining my little passage before the door.

The Lovely One on the steps she cleared beside the big drift.

And then Janet appeared, decked out in her winter gear, ready to help! I had turned the corner at the far end of the drift, where it was only about a meter tall, and opened a collapsing lane out to the middle of the driveway along the eastern edge. I told her to take over the machine while I went back for my shovel to try and attack the big drift.

Every effort I made just saddened me because the snow was so thick and deep. But as she cleared the wind-scoured center of the driveway, and I kept pushing snow along my little curved alley between the garage door and the drift and around and out into the open area, and she moved on to reducing the considerable mess at the end of the drive, her success gave me some heart to keep at the immense snow dune. And by walking through the middle of the mass repeatedly (thank goodness for those new rubber galoshes!) and eventually pushing through with my shovel in that same spot and then repeating that process at other points in the drift, I slowly began to make progress, even as I frustrated her by pushing snow out where she had already cleared it. Meanwhile she challenged the blower, at the street-end of our drive, by attacking city-plowed mounds of snow that rose to six feet in height (not that she actually tried to snow-blow that deep a mound; the plowʼs tailings just built that high on the eastern side).

After more than two hours, having blown away much of the mess at the end of the driveway and then my reductions of the huge drift and then trading me the snowblower as she decided to clear our front steps, The Lovely One realized she had begun to freeze her toes in her thin socks and tight boots. So she went inside while I remained outdoors, first blowing away what she hadnʼt dealt with at the end of the driveway and across the entire street in front of our drive and a big drift off the six-foot pile on the eastern end, and then switching back to my shovel to try to clear the edges of the drive all the way to the actual edges of the drive (or at least nearer the verge of concrete). All in all, the effort took us not quite four hours, but the drive was absolutely clear and so was a good space of the street in front of our house.

Yep, me again, this time in the street beyond the big six-foot pile of snow. See how nicely I shoveled clear the actual street?

I also got a little disheartened when I realized that the guy who plows the old folks home across the street had merely shoved all the snow from at least one of the drives straight across into our yard! Now our house really is secluded behind a privacy wall of snow that extends the whole front yard. (I should have taken a picture of that.) Janet theorized that he hadnʼt done so before because I was usually outdoors shoveling by the time he arrived in his truck to plow across the way.

Once I got inside, I found out about her toe issue, which after more than an hour after sheʼd gone inside had been resolved positively. We spent the rest of the day being quietly domestic indoors, taking seriously the advice broadcast on every station not to go out unless it was “absolutely necessary.” And we had a great pot of leftover chili from Sunday night to consume for supper!

The workout against the snow had been so exhausting that we both retired to bed by 9:00 PM. Although I read for a while, finishing The Swords of Lankhmar, sleep came deep and fast. We slept solidly and well as temperatures plunged to double digits below zero.

Janet got out for work successfully on Thursday morning, and I stayed home in the subzero day and eventually wrote this.

Thus endeth The Great Blizzard of 2011.

* Yes. Thatʼs me at the feeder. Janet got into having possession of the camera. What you see is my usual shoveling gear (minus the white windbreaker mentioned in todayʼs post). The colorfully reflective vest was purchased as running gear but seldom worn. I determined to wear it this year while shoveling to avoid being run down by jerks speeding toward the dead western end of our street.

** Or, looking at my picture, even wider across (although I am sure it narrowed somewhat on the far side of the drive, the eastern edge).

Click on any of the photos for greater detail and size.

Over 1350 words. So much for keeping these short this year.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Whatʼs Up?

Did everyone enjoy yesterdayʼs first installment (of only two, I promise) about my exciting adventures trying to arrive in this world? I did, as you will discover in the conclusion next Sunday, send an e-mail off to Alanis, so weʼll have to see if she/her staff bothers to plow through nearly two thousand words. Or if I win a prize at all.

For today, we have quite another kettle of minor (and selfcentered) woe…

The new boiler (I think this picture appeared in an earlier post in late 2010). The screen I keep mentioning is just above the “Peerless PureFire” logo in the dark area toward the top of the box. (If the picture is too small to see that, just click on it.)

I am dreading that weʼll have spent some unexpected money soon. Our brand-new furnace has been acting up in a strange way. Thursday evening, Janet noticed that we were chilly downstairs, and she was right. It was only 63° in our family room (I hadnʼt really noticed because I had covered my legs with a blanket, as I usually do — yep, weʼre just little old folks at home), and the thermostat had been set to 68° for hours. Strange. But it was a little on the cold side outdoors…

Then The Lovely One noticed that our new boiler (we have hot-water heat, so we donʼt really have a furnace) wasnʼt behaving quite like normal. Usually, when not running, its little computer screen readout says “STANDBY” and indicates the water temperature and time (with the time an hour off thanks to installation shortly before we dropped daylight savings time for the winter). When itʼs heating, the little screen says “CALL FOR HEAT” with an indication of how hard the boiler is heating (“INPUT %”) and the temperature and time. What Janet saw on Thursday was different: “SUPPLY AT SETPOINT.” There were various second lines — “POST FAN PURGE” and “ATTEMPTING IGNITION.” Also the temperature was higher than we usually noticed, up around 175°. Furthermore, it never got around to the normal “CALL FOR HEAT,” even though the basement, at least, wasnʼt close to as warm as the thermostat was set.

I got adrenalinized and overly excited (which makes me loud and rude when dealing with household emergencies alone with Janet), but I did eventually, after a couple harsh exchanges with each other, locate the ownerʼs manual(s) for the Peerless PureFire that we have briefly owned (for about ten weeks, apparently). It didnʼt tell me anything, although I did finally locate a few pages of readouts, two of which showed the “SUPPLY AT SETPOINT.” Neither was any help, though.

My best guess, once we really had calmed (me with a shower, her by doing that eveningʼs dishes), was to lower the thermostat to below the actual temperature indoors, 63°, to give the boiler a break, and then about the time we were going to bed, set it at 60° (which is higher than we have the digital devices set for nighttime) and see what happened.

We slept warmly that night, the furnace working like a charm once it had to kick in (once the interior temperature fell below 60°). We had agreed that I would call the plumbing and heating company for advice on Friday morning, which I did, and their guy, the pleasant fellow in charge of installing the boiler back in October, showed up pretty quickly. Unfortunately, the furnace was working fine, so there was no way to tell what was/had been wrong, even though Rich remained there for well over an hour, watching the boiler and reading the manuals. When he left, he took the manuals with him to study (after all they donʼt do that many boilers, as most people have forced-air heating, and the manufacturers seem to change the models almost every other month or so). He told me to keep an eye on it and write down anything odd that happened, especially if the screen showed an “A” for an alarm or a “W” for a warning (I knew it hadnʼt in its misbehavior the previous night).

Not really relevant to the post today, but these PVC pipes are the intake of fresh air and the “chimney” for our new boiler. Somewhere outdoors the boiler has a sensor for exterior temperature that helps it determine just how high to make the “setpoint.”

Saturday morning, Janet awoke before me to head out for Zumba as I malingered abed until well after 9:00 (hey, I get up about 4:45 every weekday morning to run — or shovel snow). When I got downstairs about 9:15, the furnace was racing madly through the unfortunate cycle: “SUPPLY AT SETPOINT” to “POST FAN PURGE” to “CALL FOR HEAT — ATTEMPTING IGNITION” through rapidly sending the water temperature up to 175° at which point it went through the whole cycle again. And again and again and…

It only took about sixty or seventy seconds to run through a whole cycle (a fact I was very conscious about because I was trying to write down all the information on our pad of paper as rapidly as I could, over and over and over). So I called the company again, taking note as I left my message on their machine (it was Saturday, after all) of the emergency number to call. I lowered the temperature on the thermostats to below the current house temp, which was only 57° both upstairs and down (two separate subsystems, each with its own thermostat). It was the excessively cool temperature that made me call for emergency help, as I finally did a half hour later.

Of course, having rested, when I set the thermostats back to a decent place in the mid-sixties, the boiler worked fine. It still was when Rich arrived about an hour after my summons (I had even called him again to say it was working and maybe he didnʼt need to come, after all, but he was already on our case and had received a second repair job as well). He really checked things out this time (we had both figured out some possible problems with pumps, callers and other items that werenʼt the boiler itself), showing and explaining a lot of stuff to me, including a few things I could from then on be able to do for myself. But he couldnʼt determine what had been/was wrong, except to conclude some things that werenʼt malfunctioning. About an hour later, he packed up his equipment and testers, restored the boiler to its normal state (he had really opened stuff up to check), and told me to keep an eye on it. Again.

It worked fine all day Saturday, getting both levels of the house up to temps warmer than we usually keep. I am typing on Saturday evening about 5:30, and I will continue to keep the house warmer than normal, my one theory being that the furnace is having trouble when it has to raise the temperature fifteen or twenty degrees between a low setting for night and a warmer setting for when Janetʼs home. The heating guys still have our manuals, so weʼll be in touch.

Maybe the boilerʼs just moody.

Of course, as much as I appreciate Richʼs active investigative visits, thatʼs possibly how Iʼll feel (maybe more than merely moody) if these service calls on a ten-week-old boiler turn into big charges…

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A

Yearʼs End

…And suddenly the year is at its end. I am somehow surprised that I have actually, as of this unessayʼs ætheric appearance, composed at least a post a day for a full 365 days, not to mention no less than four or five further posts-worth of commentary here and elsewhere. I suppose I should use the opportunity of this final day in 2010 to reflect musingly on my little collection of essays over the year. Perhaps I will. However, as has become my typical practice, I begin instead with no particular goal in mind, simply considering that a decade ends today (I guess I canʼt tag a post automatically with “The Aughties” any longer).

The gloomy fog outside my head. Pretty bleak (and I mean both words). This picture has partners on the blog, earlier in the year, for comparison and contrast. If you look closely, you can see piles of creosoted logs, plentiful in whitecapped black piles, fermenting in the wet and slushing snow.

Naturally, it is really the-day-before-this, the thirtieth, on which I write (and if I choose to post something for the new year tomorrow, it may be that far in advance as well). I goofed the morning of yesterday away, watching the old Basil Rathbone/Sherlock Holmes Dressed to Kill on Encore Mystery and then (only after it had appeared) editing yesterdayʼs post and adding a preface to “Mistakes by Moonlight.”* It was going on 2:00 by the time I actually forced myself to begin hunting and pecking away toward this post. And I had to interrupt myself almost as soon as I had begun (right here, as a matter of fact) because I had promised Janet I would head out into the drizzle and fog to purchase some female medication for her.

Not an inspiring first two paragraphs for our final day here on Wakdjunkagaʼs Blog 2010. But then 22 out of 56 cars I encountered on my little drive out to and back from the hidjous** Walmart, even in this day of factory-installed daytime-running-lights (albeit in our financially destitute county, nearly the nadir here in Iowa, many of those cars are at least as old as my truck and even decade[s] older), somehow neglected, in fog so thick I couldnʼt see to the bottom of the dip to the south on Western Avenue, a mere few hundred feet in distance, to have their headlights on.*** Uninspiring indeed. So was the fact that I bought a pair of jeans larger than I have ever worn before in my life — because good intentions and all, I still need to make it through this winter somehow, and the old ones are cramping if not my style my blubbery waist.

Yes, in looking back over this pas twelve months, I can say with certainty that I have grown… fatter. Not my ambition for retirement. Somehow the workouts havenʼt been materializing. Too easy to get busy on the keyboard (or cruising the internet, food at hand). Some things must change, and change fast.

A year ago, I modestly assessed my writing accomplishments and determined to try to put up a post each day for as long as I could, perhaps all year. Now I have done that. And precious little else. Tomorrowʼs resolve may be more standard and predictable (and I hope I avoid the typically unsurprising nonfulfillment of that vow to work out and lose weight). Unfortunately, although I have now accomplished my 2010 ambition, I know it came at the cost of my other writing activities (particularly the drudgery and depression of sending stuff out for rejection), even though the blog did help me finish four stories this year, starting several more and extending most of the others considerably (and spew out 50,000 words in a “novel” in November). I also accumulated a little cadre of pretty regular readers: thank you all. That may be the best of all possible events this year.

And Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A., acquired two little editing/proofreading jobs (thanks, clients, sincerely; your perusal of the blog probably got me the work). Maybe my other new yearʼs resolution should be to get serious about that alternative career. Anyone? “Whatever your editing or textual needs…”

Of course, if anyone knows a good, well-connected literary agent, an introduction would be a wonderful gift!

Accomplishments? I worked for Census 2010 for a few months and learned a few things about how governmental organization operates (probably none of that insight positive about our government in action). I learned about plastics “crazing” and acquired my nice still “new” glasses (not an altogether positive experience, either, really). I discovered and lost a lipoma. Went to Alaska, sort of, cruising (about which I still have at least three unfinished posts I could yet present). Played Picasso and an asylum inmate (reversing chronological order there). I wrote some pretty good essays here (mostly the political ones, sorry to point out, right-aligning friends), particularly the four collected as de monastica libertate, the howl against the faux anti-NYC mosque madness, and this, and this, and this**** (And now I have wasted more time rereading most of those, but I think itʼs worth it.) Not much else. Probably not the best year of my life, in the end.

In the wide world, itʼs been a bad year, filled with bad economics, wicked and deceptive political maneuvers (still going on here in Iowa), misery and torment. Wars and rumors of war. What little good has managed to be contrived has been overshadowed and criticized by forces of repression, selfishness, ignorance and greed. Probably not the best year of our lives, unless weʼre excessively rich or the ultra-wealthyʼs political tools… On the other hand, at least weʼre alive and reading these otherwise dire thoughts (I had to get one last other hand in here this year).

Just look where reflecting on the year gone past has gotten me. In a gray fog of bleak gloom. Not very positive at all. Perhaps thatʼs why we all wish each other, “Happy New Year” (and so many of us drink the old one into its tomb). But that is exactly, a happy new year, what I would wish for each and all of you.

* Did anyone notice that the day before I did finally collect the fragments of my thoughts on religious freedom and collect them here? As an essay, I think it holds up fairly well.

** Wouldnʼt that be the opposite of “frabjous”?

*** Now thereʼs a sentence for you. Probably not my record for length this year, but pretty close.

**** And so little came of any of them… So fitting for my midwestern fog today and yesterday. Oh, well. Tomorrowʼs thirty degrees colder and clear, a new year.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A

Working Out at the Y

Happy Peal Harbor Day, folks! In other disaster news…

In actual reality, I wore my ClickArt t-shirt and gray shorts…

I used my YMCA membership again for the first time in a year or so, but I hope not for the last. I should be there again today. I believe I mentioned that I did not get up to go running Monday morning (and I am probably even less motivated this morning when the temperatureʼs supposed to be right around zero, not even including any possible wind chill, but you never know — generally speaking, I like to run). However, my revived Y experience was a good one, and I fully intend to be back, even today.

Yesterday, I fooled around on the computer for hours (worthlessly, accomplishing nothing — a condition at which I seem to becoming proficient at creating and maintaining, unfortunately). I gave myself the new Facebook profile, not really worth it, to be honest (I miss the tabs, but I guess that concept was too difficult for too many users… or something). I entered a new sub day in both Calendar and Now Up-to-Date. I updated the songs on my iPod, which is getting complicated with about 18,000 items in iTunes on the computer (not all are “songs,” sorry to report, Mr. or Ms. Terminology-Designer at Apple — I do have not quite 25 audio books on there right now, too), having purchased Carlos Santanaʼs Guitar Heaven: The Greatest Guitar Classics Of All Time for $3.99 the other day (one really must love Carlos churning through “Smoke on the Water” among other unlikely numbers). Thereʼs far too much Grateful Dead (over 2000, and I couldnʼt resist downloading all of the thirty recent live selections Dead.net made available for free during November — this on top of at least a hundred live tracks I downloaded when the Deadʼs siteʼs “Taperʼs Section” selections were actual files, not mere streaming — not that I canʼt capture streams if I want), far too much (over 300 each) Springsteen, Hendrix, Clapton, Beatles, Jefferson Airplane/Starship…

Having spent a half hour rowing on the machine at the Y, I did realize I need to get some books on the iPod, regardless of the fact that itʼs full. Itʼs a lot more fun to row to a story than merely music, and the desire to “find out what the people (in the story, whatever it may be) are doing today” does motivate me (and The Lovely One) to get to doing what we would wear (and listen to) the ʼPod for. And for me, that would be working out/jogging.

Monday, I did a half hour of rowing. With my midsection far too large (as engorged as the iPod playlists), the necessary bending action to row is one of the things I need to do often, daily and then some more. I rowed 800 and some strokes in thirty minutes (I was counting as I listened to an all-Jimi set of selections), at about 26 strokes a minute. In the old days at the local hospital, I could pull about 800 calories an hour. Yesterday, I was often under the 600 mark. Then I tried running on a treadmill, but after less than five minutes my right leg started shin-splint pain (or something), so I just reduced to walking for a half hour. The pain did not magically vanish. I was trying to walk quickly and up a five to six incline, but I was merely walking.

Even so, it felt good.

The place was close to deserted, with only about a half dozen people there, thinning during my hour in motion, so this fattie was relatively comfortable working his soft body in public. I said hello to a svelte former student as she departed and I arrived. Otherwise, no one seemed familiar (and as I usually work out with eyes closed to avoid staring at everyone else, I could have missed even Janet). And to the best of my awareness no one complained about my presence, either.

So it was all good, and I am going back today. I think Tuesdays and Thursdays are going to be my weight-lifting days (The Lovely Oneʼs been at me to get back into a weight routine, as she has done, beneficially and improvingly).

My real goal is to run in the morning and still do another hour or so at the Y, double workouts, which is how I dropped my weight wonderfully well back in the mid to late Nineties. Weʼll just have to see how that goes. If I am not going to make myself do the writing work I need to do (which I didnʼt yesterday, nor Friday nor Thursday nor Wednesday last week), I might as well do something good for my health. Or maybe the alternative will scare me into writing…

24 posts to go!

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A